Kenya: Safari to Maasai Mara National Reserve
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Kenya: Safari to Maasai Mara National Reserve. Maasai Mara National Reserve is a natural extension of the Serengeti wastelands in Kenya. It spans over an area of around 1,800 square kilometers and is the largest wildlife reserve in the southern part of Kenya. Lying in the Narok County it is also a part of the Mara Ecosystem which is inclusive of Mara North, Enonkishu, Olare Motorogi and Ol Kinyei which are the neighboring conservancy regions here. The Great Migration is an annually repeated process where 1.4 million wildebeests, 200,000 zebras, and 500,000 gazelles, move along the crowded crocodile rivers in search of grass and food. Maasai Mara is better known for this animal show that usually occurs from July to October.
The Maasai Mara National Reserve is located above 1,500 meters where the climate is damper than other regions. It is not a national park and protected as a reserve and not managed by Kenya Wildlife Service. But, the local authorities like District Councils maintain the reserve. The money got from the reserve is used in the development of the local Maasai community. Two councils namely the Trans Mara and Narok council are part of the community. The Narok council manages the rest of the reserve on the eastern side of the Mara River, and the Trans Mara council manages the western part of the Maasai Mara National Reserve called as Mara Triangle.
The ecosystem in Mara-Serengeti is over 25,000 km2 comprising of open grassland that goes into the northern part of Tanzania and the southern part of Kenya. You can experience a varied landscape that offer you floods, disperse woods, waving grasslands, and bush areas. On the west side, soil indicates signs of prehistoric volcanic activity. The western part borders the Siria Escarpment of the Great Rift Valley, which stretches more than 150 meters.
Unfortunately only one lodge is present, the Mara Serena Safari Lodge, which can be found near the Mara Triangle close to the Mara River. It is present on a bush-cloaked hill providing you with a panoramic view of the savannah. You can also see hippos and crocodiles present in the river. However, rangers patrol the area regularly which helps in reducing the poaching, and excellent wildlife habitat is there throughout the year. However, you can find several camps and lodges in the Narok controlled area that is of the eastern part of the Mara reserve compared to the Mara Triangle.
The Mara North Conservancy borders the northern part of the Mara Triangle, which has a fascinating wilderness surrounding. The area spans around 30,000 hectares and is a very important part of the ecosystem here. It not only forms the northwestern border of this protective zone but also is a link between the visitors and the tourists. There is a partnership here between the local area and the Maasai people. This is a nonprofit venture, and the main aim is to create a bonding with the environment. The area is, in fact, one of the most populated areas in the wildlife zones and lies in the Greater Mara ecosystem. The Leopard George is a maternity and birthing area for the big cats and is found in this very Mara North Conservancy. The background of the visually beautiful Lemek Hills is again a wonderful sight. The place also shelters the African wild dogs that are a threatened species today. The Mara North Conservancy also maintains a discipline of maintaining the environment by lowering the vehicles as well the tourist influx here.
Further to the north of The Mara North Conservancy, you can see the Enonkishu Conservancy. Here modern cattle management techniques are given maximum importance to improve the livestock activities. This conservancy is full of acacia trees that gives an impressive savannah look and is surrounded by rocky hills and uneven terrains. Bordering the Conservancy, the Mara River flows magnificently where a lot of hippos and crocodiles steal the show undisturbed. Herds of animals, lions and elephants are frequently seen roaming in and around Enonkishu and Ol Choro Oiroua area. For people who want to have wonderful game viewing enjoyments, Enonkishu Conservancy is the best place, and you can find serval cats, aardwolves, caracals, and aardvarks.
On the east side of Mara North Conservancy is located the Olare Motorogi Conservancy. This is a perfect Hallmark location for wildlife conservancy and is considered as an excellent example of sustainability of the Maasai Mara ecosystem. Tourists can have mind blowing watching experience of wildlife that are very rare and could not be found anywhere in the grass plains of Maasai Mara ecosystem. Mixed wildlife including big cats, wild predators, and herbivores are the main attraction in this area. Sighting herds of elephants, wild dogs, and black rhinos are also common.
The Mara Naboisho Conservancy is located in the western part of Olare Motorogi Conservancy, which is a well-known habitat for giraffes, wildebeest, big cats and elephants. The Mara Naboisho Conservancy is also one of the spectacular locations for bird watching, and you will be lucky enough to watch some of the rarest birds in the sanctuary. Most commonly founds birds are Bush Pipits, Pigmy Falcon, White-headed Buffalo-Weavers, White-Crowned Shrinke, etc. Since lots of importance is given to environment protection, tourism and vehicle movement to this area is restricted and, as a result, you will have luxurious wildlife experience.
Enjoy the sights in the eastern part of the Mara Naboisho Conservancy where one can have a delightful sight of the Ol Kinyei Conservancy. This is, in fact, the conservancy that has won a lot of awards and also has the dubious achievement of being the first such conservancy in the Greater Mara ecosystem. There is, in fact, a livestock exclusion zone here so that wildlife conservation is well promoted. The pride of lions here is, in fact, a visual delight, and more than 30 of them are residents in the Ol Kinyei Conservancy. Besides this, of course, one finds at least 300 types of birds and leopards too.
Attraction: Hot Air Balloon Safari and breakfast
There are several places in the Mara from where you can experience a Hot Air Balloon trip. It is really a breathtaking moment to float silently over the savannah and experience the sunrise as the wildlife wakes up. It is one of those experiences where you relax and absorb the moment as the savannah is waking up, it will fill you with enough memories to last a lifetime. The Hot Air Balloon Safari flight usually takes an hour, after a safe landing on the savannah a team is standing by to greet you with a luxurious champagne breakfast on the savannah. Having your breakfast in the wild completes the experience while you can relax while experiencing close encounters with the wildlife as they pass by.
As the Hot Air Balloon is an experience of a lifetime, it is a good idea to bring a hat to protect your head from the heat of the gas burners.
Attraction: Walking safari
You will want to know that, there is no walking safari in inside the Maasai Mara National Reserve. It is possible to do it in the neighboring Conservancy at the Mara Naboisho Conservancy. As you walk around the reserve area, you will experience a different perspective of wildlife. When you walk around, you are accompanied by Maasai warriors to guide you and protect you from wildlife getting too close.
Walking along the Savannah gives you the rare opportunity to scan through the ecosystem, various forms of termite mounds, trail movements, and giving a chance to observe closely about the Conservancy birdlife. You never know what kind of surprises may spring up while taking a walking safari around the conservancy and that makes a lot of difference than the vehicle safari. Your Maasai Warriors are knowledgeable people about various forms of wildlife and sharing those experiences will certainly make your trip a wonderful experience.
Attraction: Night safari
The night safari is yet another experience that should not be missed when you tour in Maasai Mara National Reserve. Here one gets to see what one would never be able to see at night. There are hippos and such animals that usually bask in the glory of the night, and they just are the visual feast for the visitor. The sensitive skin of the hippos usually gets burnt by sunlight, so they turn up at night much to the delight of the night safari visitor.
The night safari can certainly give you a very different experience when comparing to the day Safari. It is a common fact that majority of the predators such as the big cats, jackals, lions, and hyenas do their hunting during the night or early morning. So you will have the best chance to see these kinds of nocturnal animals during your night safari expeditions once you are decided to take the course through the thick savannah of the Maasai Mara National Reserve.
People and Culture
The people in the Maasai Mara Reserve are called Maasai and their community name is christened for the reserve. They are found here all over the place. Their children usually tend to the huge herds of goats, sheep and cattle and the others are busy in their everyday village life. This provides a very popular element in the safari tours here. The entire village experience is really worth for the trip giving a new dimension for the tour.
The Maasai Mara National Reserve is highly inhabited by wild animals such as cheetahs, leopards, lions, jackals, etc., and could be seen many parts of the reserve. Maybe their crowded presence is due to the easy availability of foods. Other wild animals such as elephants and black rhinos are regularly seen in the reserve area. Large herds are also a common scene in the Maasai Mara National Reserve, and they are always busy in gulping their foods. It is estimated that a fully grown up elephant consumes about 250 Kg of green food that is a clear indication of the availability of green vegetable foods in the reserve. Moving to the Mara River where the Hippo pools are located, watching hippos and movements of crocodiles are indeed a wonderful experience. To add your excitement, there are a plethora of wild birds you can watch in the reserve.
The Great Migration is a major sight here and during this time the zebra, the wildebeest and the gazelle migrate into the Maasai Mara from the plains of the Serengeti region. This is a wonderful visual delight and is an annual event. It provides the interest quotient for the visits here and is also the main highlight of tourism to Maasai Mara. July is the month when the big herds start arriving. The bigger herds come towards the beginning of the month of August and they remain thus till the middle of the month of September. These herds are found in plenty till October, of course, the bigger ones leave for the plains much before this. The main driving element for the herds is the presence of grass here and so long as the grass is fresh, the herds stay. The moment it gets older, the herds head towards greener pastures. The northern part of Serengeti is believed to have still half the population of wildlife and it is only the other half that visits this part of the Maasai Reserve.
The Maasai Mara National Reserve is rich with biggest five land animals, such as the elephant, lion, leopard, rhinoceros, and buffalo. Ever since the authorities put a break to the illegal poaching of rhinos in the reserve, which was rampant during the early 1980s, their numbers have considerably improved. However, there is no assurance of meeting any rhinos during your safari. But be positive, you might be seeing them somewhere as there is nothing certain in the reserve.
From Nairobi, the Maasai Mara National Reserve is about 260 kilometers away, and you can cover the distance in five to six hours time. Even if you are driving from Lake Nakuru, it will take 5 to 6 hours to reach to the Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya.
Lodges and camps
The Maasai Mara National Reserve provides different kinds of services and amenities to suit the needs of their customers. You can make use of the 5-star luxurious lodges, tented camps, and camping facilities that provide you with an actual camp lifestyle. The need to stay inside the reserve premises is not there as you are provided with night safaris.
You can spend two to six days in the reserve area depending on the season. It is better if you stay for at least four days or a week to experience the wildlife in the Maasai Mara National Reserve. Perhaps, you can reside in two different locations in the reserve. This helps you to see a larger variety of animals in the reserve.